Happy Thanksgiving! (okay, it's a little late but thats okay) Being outside of the US for holidays is probably one of the hardest things about living abroad. Although I couldn't be with my friends and family, I was thankful to have some Americans, English, and Spaniards that wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with my roommates and I. At school, I explained to the kids what Thanksgiving was and why we celebrate it and made a pumpkin pie for the teachers. Did I mention we had to make 3 pumpkin pies from real pumpkin? Booyah. The teachers really liked all the pie and asked me for the recipe. We spent all week preparing the turkey (yes, this year we found a turkey!!!), stuffing, and pumpkin pies for our big feast. We had about 11 people come to enjoy each other's company and say thanks for all the great things that we had in our lives. The turkey and all the fixin's were a big hit! Even though I wasn't with my family I had a lot of things to be thankful for!
Be careful in how you answer that questions amigos, you could spark a war between leoneses (people from Leon) and burgaleses (people from Burgos). They love to joke with each other about who has the prettier cathedral and which has the better morcilla (blood sausage). This weekend I went to a casa rural in Leon with Alberto (pictured above) and his friends. Half of the group was from Leon and half were from Burgos. Which province had a better cathedral was a debate all weekend. On Friday night we drove to the middle of nowhere Leon to find the casa rural we were staying at. Casas rurales are located all throughout pueblos in Spain. They can either be a bed and breakfast type deal where there are owners that cook for you in the morning or it can be an empty house that you rent out with a lot of people. The house that we stayed in was kind of like a cabin with a fireplace and everything. It was really relaxing to sit by the fire and talk (although sometimes I got lost with the 8 conversations going on). We even roasted chestnuts! I felt like I was in a Nat King Cole song, minus that it isn't Christmas yet. We woke up on Saturday morning to go on a hike through the mountains in Leon. Unfortunately, we didn't have great weather so we didn't do the entire 5 hour loop as planned. It had rained the night before and was cloudy and foggy. We started hiking on a cow path through the mountains and it was absolutely beautiful. Everytime I go to a new region of Spain, it never ceases to amaze me that the landscape can be so different. In Leon, everything was so green and all the leaves on the trees were changing. Although I was trying to dodge cow poo and slippery rocks, I had to look up in awe at the huge rocks surrounded by mist all around us. It was amazing! Here are some pictures from the hike. After a 3 hour hike we headed to the only restaurant around for some cocido de Leon which is a 3 course meal consisting of soup followed by chickpeas and vegetables and finishing with an assortment of meat. Think that's a lot of food? Well fasten your seatbelts, there is a dessert plate coming. It was the best desserts I've had in Spain, truffles, turon cake, flan, natillas, and cheese cake. I was in heaven. The best part about huge Spanish lunches is that just when you think you are going to have to have a siesta in your chair. They bring out the coffee and digestive liquor to resuscitate you (side note although I was awake I had to be rolled out of the restaurant). We headed back to the casa rural for a shower and some down time. Even though I was not in the least hungry at dinner, one of the girls Maria made us a light meal of some mashed potatoes and fried pork fat. Did I mention I am trying to lower my cholesterol? Well, I am slowly discovering Spain is the worst country to do that in haha.
The next day we headed to Leon, which was about 30 minutes away. From there we walked around the city and went tapeando, or eating tapas. We would stop in one place order a beer and get a tapa that they gave you for ordering. However, we would never spend much time in each bar. The idea was get your drink and food, spend about 15 minutes eating and drinking then move on to find the next one. I think we went to about 5 or 6 in all and it was really fun (and delish of course). After we all said goodbye to one another I went to take a look at the Leon cathedral to try and decide if it was prettier than the Burgos cathedral. Although it had the most beautiful stained glass windows of any cathedral in Spain, I think the prettiest cathedral is...Sevilla's!!! Hahaha well you can decide for yourself:
As a part of developing my cooking repertoire and eating healthier, I have been trying out lots of new recipes. Since I have Mondays off, it has become my cooking and errand day. Although I enjoyed cooking in college, I get really excited now about looking for recipes that call for the ingredients that are really easy to find here. As well, I have been frequenting the fruit and vegetable store near my house and they have a fresh herb every week (cilantro, mint etc). Last week, they had basil and I almost let out a scream in the store. I have had a hard time finding fresh basil and a lot of recipes I want to try call for it. Since its getting colder here I decided to make some tomato-basil soup, courtesy of Ina Garten. It was so delicious!! Here is a picture to make your mouth water haha.
Even though I celebrated Halloween at school the party didn't stop there, I went to 2 parties during the weekend. We had Monday off for the Day of the Dead so there were Halloween parties both Saturday and Sunday. Since I did nothing to celebrate Halloween last year I wanted to make sure my costume was fantastic. Remember how I said that everyone in Spain is scary for Halloween? Well I decided to go as Lady Gaga which is the popular thing to do in the US, but in Spain is totally original. Score! Obviously my costume was the bomb. Check it out:
My Lady Gaga album cover.
With my roommate Allison who was a Frenchman haha. I was going to get a microphone to hold but olive oil is much more Spanish right?
One of the most startling things about working in a Spanish school is how much they love to celebrate holidays. Coming from the US where celebrating holidays in school is usually considered a violation of personal rights and a waste of time, going bananas to celebrate holidays is really different. But Spaniards love a party, so I guess it makes sense. I have enjoyed celebrating holidays at school and the kids get SO excited for them. Probably because we get an entire week to make decorations for the school but whatever. We celebrated Halloween on Friday of last week but most of the week was spent making treats, decorations for the hall, and learning the trick-or-treat song. I'm not going to lie our school was tricked out from top to bottom with every classroom or hallway having something Halloween-related in it. My co-worker Carmella and I even put on a show for everyone at school on Friday. Do you remember doing that experiment in elementary school where you have cold spaghetti in a box and you put your hand, and it feels like brains? Well that is what we did but times 10. We decorated the library to look like a lab and the teachers found several black lights which made all the white super awesome. Carmella and I came early on Friday to do our make up and put on our costumes. Here's what we came up with:
Can you say fabulous? Anyway, every grade came down to our "lab" and we told them that we had just cut up Frankenstein's body but forgot where we put the parts. The kids had to put their hands into the boxes and tell us what "body part" they thought it was. Watching the kids faces as they touched the spaghetti/tomatoes/hot dogs/mushrooms/peeled grapes that we had was pretty priceless. Even though they cried "Que asco!" (Gross!) I know they were totally loving it. After we finished our show for every grade we went out to the playground to see all the kids dressed up in their costumes and get some candy. All the kids were so cute in their costumes although for Halloween in Spain everyone only dresses in scary costumes. Below you can see some of my little vampires, witches and monsters! Are they precious?